As sure as President Obama will pardon a ceremonial turkey this week, we know others will not be so lucky in the White House kitchen. The biggest diplomatic turkey—Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran—will be similarly pardoned and excused quickly while the foreboding we should all feel about it will be ignored in the launch of the holiday season.
As this is written, no announcement of the inevitable postponement of the Iran nuclear negotiations has come. But today the draft pseudo-deal with the Iranian government expires. All of the entrails we can read bode ill not just for the continued stalemate, but also for our reaching a deal that will not ensure the Iranians’ ability to produce nuclear weapons in secret, beyond our intelligence community’s capability to detect Iran’s decision to accomplish its ambition.
The most likely result of the negotiations is a further extension of the deadline of the temporary agreement that has already been extended from six months to a year. In the year since last November 24, the results have been minimal. hasn’t conceded any of the main points at issue, which include its ability to enrich uranium to the point at which fissile material could be produced quickly. It hasn’t conceded to the unlimited inspection of its nuclear facilities, some of which are certainly still unknown to the West. And it hasn’t stopped or even slowed its massive effort to construct defenses for those facilities that might make them impervious to any attack that didn’t employ nuclear weapons.
The Iranians have to be greatly encouraged because they are far keener observers of our behavior than we are of theirs. Iran’s leaders know, based on the record of every president since George H.W. Bush—each of whom has declared that Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons is unacceptable and yet taken no decisive action to preclude development of them—that history is on their side and time is their most important weapon.
Iran knows, from disclosure by the media of White House thinking, that President Obama regards a deal with Iran as important a part of his legacy as Obamacare. Iran knows, from Obama’s behavior since his inauguration, that he is entirely comfortable in sacrificing our ability to deal with significant security threats to his own political purposes, despite the fact that the sacrifice may also endanger our allies.
Iran listened carefully to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s September 2012 speech to the United Nations in which he said that Iran was approaching the point at which its nuclear weapons program could not be destroyed by military action. Netanyahu warned that the world had to draw and enforce a red line, because unlike the post-World War II nuclear states, Iran is not susceptible of the strategy of deterrence. As he said then, deterrence worked with the Soviet Union because when faced with the choice between survival and ideology, they always chose survival. He needn’t have added that Iran will choose ideology instead. The Iranians know that the United States and the NATO nations ignored Netanyahu’s warnings.
Iran calculates carefully against American action, taking its cues from its dominant Islamic ideology and from the calendar, all the while measuring our inaction against our presidential pronouncements.
In short, Iran is taking advantage of the time it is allowed to do what it wishes, slowing or speeding its march to nuclear weapons but never, ever, turning away from its goals.
In recent days, Israel has done some saber rattling, again posing military action against the Iranians. The Israelis understand that their nation is so small that it cannot endure a single nuclear weapon exploded in any population center, and they know that Iran is working energetically on ballistic missiles, nuclear triggers, and nuclear weapons small enough to be delivered by those missiles.
Just as important, the Israelis have been deterred from taking military action against the Iranian nuclear weapons program by Obama’s pseudo-deal, which has tied their hands. They don’t want to go against the American P5+1 deal, fearing—rightly—that they would suffer enormous enmity, isolation, and sanctions should they attack while a deal was supposedly in place. Israel therefore stands by, but its leaders have to know that Iran cannot be deterred or convinced by any diplomatic deal to change their course of action.
Our sometime allies such as Saudi Arabia are working to obtain their own nuclear arsenals to protect themselves against Iranian nuclear blackmail and may have obtained them already from Pakistan.
Iran’s regime, since it came to power in 1979, has proven itself immune to diplomacy and the agreements it produces. The record is perfect: not once since 1979 has diplomacy changed the regime’s behavior. On that basis alone, it should be clear that there can be no peaceful end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions or disarming of its weapons once they have been produced.
Some of Obama’s defenders say that a nuclear-armed Iran will serve to stabilize the Middle East. That risible contention ignores the obvious fact that any such stability would turn the other countries of the Middle East into what those of Eastern Europe were under the Soviets: captive nations that were enslaved to ideology. Those nations would, like the Soviet’s satellite states, have their peoples, their economies, and every previous freedom—even in the Sunni Muslim states—bent to a Shiite domination under threat of a nuclear religious war.
What little stability existed in the Middle East has been maintained by a balance of power between the Sunni states, under American protection, and Iran. By Obama’s diplomacy, our protection of the Sunni states is withdrawn and the balance of power disrupted if not erased. The ISIS onslaught in Iraq and Syria is evidence of that.
Obama has been fond of saying that America is “the indispensable nation,” but he has worked consistently to withdraw us from that role. The ayatollahs in Tehran must be quite relaxed, secure in the knowledge that no nation is intent on restoring the balance of power in the Middle East.
Among the wealth of wisdom in Henry Kissinger’s recent book, World Order, is the concept—willfully ignored by Obama and the rest of the P5+1—that the Iranian regime, because it is a revolutionary power based on religion, cannot fit within the 17th Century Westphalian formulation of nation states based on sovereignty. Iran’s most basic governing principle is rejection of the legitimacy and sovereignty of any nation whose religion doesn’t conform to its own. Its ideology compels it to nuclear blackmail, terrorism, and conquest.
There is so much that Obama has done that our next president could undo, but a nuclear weapons agreement with Iran won’t be one of them. Kissinger is profoundly correct. Iran’s revolutionary regime cannot be dealt with as if it were a part of some Westphalian world order. Iran means to break it all apart. With nuclear weapons, it will have the means.